23 articles Line by Line

Scrutinizing the play, one line at a time, partly with an eye towards creating an original performance script for my 2016 production.

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 52-54

BARNARDO: How now, Horatio! you tremble and look pale: Is not this something more than fantasy? What think you on’t? Following the Ghost’s first exit, Barnardo turns the scene’s focus back to the subject of fantasy, a word first used in line 22 (you remember line 22? Back in February?). Even though it was Marcellus…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Line 49

MARCELLUS: It is offended. BARNARDO:                        See, it stalks away! This shared line provides the actor playing the Ghost with a brace of remarkably precise acting tips. More than tips, in fact; if a production retains these two lines, they confine the actor to a specific set of choices. It’s a great example of the dramaturgical…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 44-48

BARNARDO: It would be spoke to. MARCELLUS:                                  Speak to it, Horatio. HORATIO: What art thou that usurp’st this time of night, Together with that fair and warlike form In which the majesty of buried Denmark Did sometimes march? By heaven, I charge thee speak. When last we left our supporting cast — Barnardo the Paranoid,…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Line 43

HORATIO: Most like: it harrows me with fear and wonder. I love this line. It’s not one of those bottomless Shakespearean mystery lines, like “Life’s but a walking shadow” or “Our revels now are ended,” but it conveys a wonderful image while also revealing something about the character who speaks it. Modern ears will be…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Line 42

BARNARDO: Looks it not like the king? Mark it, Horatio. Here we go again: two lines ago, Barnardo pointed out to Horatio (or, more importantly, to the audience) that the Ghost resembles “the King that’s dead.” And a whopping one line ago, Marcellus urged, “speak to it, Horatio.” The latter is not quite the same…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Line 41

MARCELLUS:Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio. At this point, your humble author reveals how rusty his research skills have become. Although I read Hamlet on my own in Grade 10, I didn’t study it until Grade 11. My teacher, Robin Carson, was enormously knowledgeable and articulate, to the point that I can still…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Line 40

BARNARDO: In the same figure like the King that’s dead. When taken in isolation, this line sounds very awkward. Although modern ears should have no trouble understanding the meaning, it does sound a bit strange that Barnardo should say “like” instead of “as.” And adding “that’s dead” — presumably to distinguish this King from the…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Line 39

Enter GHOST. MARCELLUS: Peace, break thee off, look where it comes again. Although from my perspective, it’s been a month and a half since the line-by-line analysis of Hamlet began, only 38 lines have been spoken on stage prior to the entrance of the main attraction, ie. Hamlet, Sr. (deceased). In Q1, the number of…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 34-37

BARNARDO: Last night of all, When yond same star that’s westward from the pole Had made his course t’illume that part of heaven Where now it burns… I’m splitting Barnardo’s brief narrative into two parts so I can linger on the astronomical implications. Barnardo’s first line, “last night of all,” probably just means “only last…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 30-34

BERNARDO:                                   Sit down awhile, And let us once again assail your ears That are so fortified against our story What we have two nights seen. HORATIO:                               Well, sit we down, And let us hear Bernardo speak of this. The two words most likely to confuse modern audiences are “assail” and “fortified,” are also the first…